Shoes have often figured into my writing. The phrase, “Walk a mile in another person’s shoes,” keeps me grounded. It’s a reminder of the narrow worlds we live in and how important it is to widen them in whatever ways we can—to open our views.
When I was little, I kept my Aunt Eleanor’s cowboy boots for the longest time. Aunt Eleanor was one of those aunts who died before I was born. She was a just a story people told—having died of colon cancer at a young age. I wish I still had those boots, but I don’t.
In one of my early plays, there are a pair of loafers. They matter a great deal to the main character because they had belonged to her father.
After my father died in 2011, my mother and I laid his shoes out on the carpeted floor of their bedroom. There were wingtips and sneakers. They were my father’s shoes.
On marathon day in Boston last Monday, Diane turned on the TV. It is our habit to keep the TV on all that day if we are home. It’s fun to stop now and then and watch the runners. I remember an announcer saying, “The runners are lacing up their shoes.”
Later that day, bombs went off.
I was looking through pictures of the many memorials to the dead and injured. I was thinking about how people talked about seeing legs, severed from bodies, lying on the bloody pavement. On Marathon Monday—a day of running and endurance. I could barely stand the image and could not imagine—still cannot imagine—being there.
And then I saw, among the flowers and the notes and the stuffed animals laid out in memory and love, a pair of running shoes.
I have been doing a series of train drawings, still working on staying loose. I like the drape of this guy, and I had fun just using lines, no shading or color. I might try another of this same subject using watercolor function on the app. We’ll see.
As for my writing, I have been wanting to get back to some flash fiction, but I have been quite involved in writing a new novel, some of which began here, on the journal.
I’ll keep you all posted.
Thanks for visiting.
I have been wanting looser, less detailed drawings. But when I take pencil to paper, it seems as if I cannot help but be detailed and somewhat “tight.” So I tried out this app called “Paper” on my iPad. I didn’t think I would like it. But I did like it! And suddenly, I could be loose with my lines. Strange. Anyway—here’s one result. Very freeing.
The first time she showed up, I was in my room, drawing. I was wearing her robe. It had become my habit to wear her robe while I drew at night, late into the night when I was supposed to be sleeping.
The streetlights shone in through my window like they always did. And the moon was just the tiniest sliver, like a scratch on the dark sky. But I had looked at it. Studied it. And I was thinking about how to draw it—that one little piece of light with all of that blackness around it.
I left my curtains open, even though Aunt Dorothy was always closing them and telling me that I should want my privacy. At night, when I drew, I liked them open. I don’t know why, but somehow I believed I was inviting the outside in.
I had this idea that there were others like me, somewhere. There had to be. I didn’t like feeling so singular and alone. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw my face, my freckles, my red hair, but I saw something else, too. What I saw there made me not want to look and look all at the same time. I wanted to see them, but maybe not. I wondered if someday we would all find each other at a particular age and time—and we would no longer be lonely, no longer be subject to that heavy feeling in our guts that just would not go away.
And so, in keeping my curtains open, I thought I was inviting others like me to come inside, and I imagined that they were there, simply not talking or showing themselves yet, and they were helping me draw my pictures, helping me find the exact right image, helping me choose the pressure I would put on the pencil lead, the shading, the lines.
But I did not expect her to come. My mother.
Okay—you’re thinking I’m talking about some ghost. And you’re thinking this is one more of those stories where a dead person comes back and only one person can see her. And that dead person has some kind of comic timing, the way she’ll show up when others are around and they ask, “Who are you talking to?” And you have to shrug and say, “No one.” Or “Myself.”
But it wasn’t like that—not like that story or that movie or that book. She came to me with her hand on my pencil, her eyes behind mine, her feet in my socks. And here’s the thing—it was brief, like that moon scratch on the sky—like a tiny piece of light that could be swallowed by the darkness at any moment.
It was like that.
She remembered a place. It might have been a place in a dream. There were no trees, and there was no sky. She had looked out of eyes that did not belong to her. And then she remembered, there was no ground either. No dirt. No grass. No branches or trunks or leaves. Just air. There may have been light. Yes. She remembered light coming from some distance—maybe a star or a moon or a lamp. She wanted it to be a lamp. And she heard a voice—a voice that whispered and whistled. That was the language of this place: whispers and whistles.
When she awoke from the dream or what may have been a dream, she looked across her room to the window. The window was open, and a breeze blew in. She saw leaves on the ground. Through the window, she saw the yellow leaves. And the rain fell on them.
It should have been a familiar sight. But ever since the dream, her eyes were not her own. And ever since the dream, she knew the sky and the trees and the ground could disappear. She knew that familiar languages could suddenly become unfamiliar.
It unsettled her, the way a dream can do.
And it must have been a dream; otherwise, why would she wake to look out a window and see rain falling on yellow leaves?
She could not be sure.
The yellow leaves whistled in the wind. The rain that fell on them whispered.